Book About Shetland's Emigrants

12 February 2008

To mark the Hamefarin in June 2010 a book on Shetland’s emigrants has been commissioned by the Shetland Hamefarin 2010 Committee. The author will be Laughton Johnston who has already published several books on Shetland, most notably ‘A Naturalist’s Shetland’.

Douglas Irvine of Shetland Islands Council Economic Development Unit said "We are very pleased that Laughton Johnston is available to do this work for the Hamefarin 2010 Committee. A book on the achievements of Shetland emigrants will be a centrepiece to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Hamefarin to Shetland. This will be a keepsake that many hamefarers and Shetland residents will want to buy and will in itself be an important part of Shetland’s heritage for generations to come."

Two years is too short a time to write a definitive account of the thousands of Shetlanders who have emigrated over several centuries and to all corners of the world but, as a first step, the author is looking for information so as to include as many as possible. Emigrants, includes those from the earliest dates right up to the present and who have settled outwith Shetland (though they may have returned), including those who settled in the British Isles. They also include anyone born in Shetland or who has Shetland ancestry. In addition to the well-known and famous emigrants, Laughton is looking for information on ordinary men and women, even the infamous, who took that fateful and courageous step. It is planned that the book should be enlivened and illustrated by personal accounts so Laughton is looking for letters, photographs, documents, sketches, poems, newspaper accounts etc.

Perhaps they took part in the goldrush in California, Australia or New Zealand; were at Trafalgar, the American Civil War, the front in the First World War; worked on the construction of the Forth Railway or Road Bridges; explored Canada; went whaling in the Antarctic; made a fortune in Charleston; named streets in Monterey; sailed ships from Liverpool; became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps they were musicians, artists, novelists, academics, doctors, judges, shipbuilders, nurses, craftsmen, sportsmen or labourers. Perhaps they invented something; were the cause of some tragedy; found themselves observing a world-changing event.

If you know of someone, whether or not they are a relative, whom you think might be included, however trivial you think their story might be, please contact Laughton at or write to him at Muckle Bousta, Sandness, Shetland, ZE2 9PL.